Category Archives: Jesus

Political Conservatism, Christianity, and Why They Don’t Mix

The Infiltration of Christianity

by American Political Conservatism

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

 

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It all started out with a paid Facebook posting of mine for a crowd-funding campaign I’m currently running on social media. The campaign is for a start-up for an electronics recycling center to help clean up the mess we’ve made of God’s planet (you can view the campaign, and donate if you can, from this link). It’s sponsored by my on-line ministry, plus two other ministers working with me, and we have 6 volunteers so far. But the ministry’s name, as my readers know, is Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta Inc., and the howls of derision by political right-wing religious nuts has been similar to that of wolves on a full moon night. It seems that God is a religious conservative to these misguided individuals. God forbid that Christianity should ever be associated with anything Progressive!

 

To myself on the other hand, the meme “conservative Christian” is a contradiction in terms, since from a political vantage point Jesus was a progressive at least, or even a (gasp!) democratic socialist. So why is the term ‘conservative Christian’ an oxymoron? Because political conservatives are called such because they conserve on everything – especially money. Much of what they have they inherited from their now-deceased rich relatives, or they made it gambling on the financial markets (isn’t that all that Wall St. really is?). No wonder they are so afraid of anything that threats their ‘Giga’ nest eggs! And that includes working people like us. Show me a political conservative, and I’ll show you a stingy individual, because stingy people are always conserving. Hence the name, OK? And there is no such thing as a stingy Christian. Not really.

 

It’s been said that when poor people get together to make a political statement it’s called ‘rioting’, but when the wealthy get together to make a statement it’s called ‘lobbying’. Conservatives despise the poor while catering to the wealthy, and this is especially true for Christian evangelicals and so-called “fundamentalists”. That got me to thinking about the state of modern Christianity. There are those who call themselves ‘Christians’, fundamentalists or Evangelicals, and there are those who call themselves ‘followers of Jesus Christ’. I would definitely put myself in the latter category. The two are definitely not the same thing, although some insist otherwise. Problem is, they are the same people who think God is a conservative Republican. Moreover, it has come to my attention that those who do so are in the minority as far as 21st century Christianity is concerned. What, if anything, did Jesus have to say about this? Quite a bit, actually. Was Jesus a conservative? Nowhere near, but don’t take my word for it. Let’s find out what Christ had to say.

 

Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7, verses 21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Further along in this same Gospel, Jesus said to the Pharisees, the ruling religious establishment of Judaism at that time, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matt. 23, verse 15) It’s pretty likely that the Pharisees had a propensity to hoard money and goods that was strikingly similar to political conservatives today.

Again in verses 23-26 Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean out the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean”.

 

Let me interpret the above verses to the best of my ability, as they apply to modern life, starting with the first one. Every person who calls on Jesus’ name will not necessarily make it to heaven when they die. Some of them will include those who presume to prophesy in the name of God. Why those people? Because they are saying things that God never told them to say. They are busy telling people to be more prosperous by giving more to their churches, or to have a more “purpose driven life”. They are busy telling people how to be more fulfilled and enriched personally, financially and professionally, and all at the same time. They are busy peddling their own NYT best-selling books instead of teaching from the Bible, the #1 selling Book of all time! Why don’t they use their vast book revenues to win more people to Christ, buying airtime on cable TV and radio to warn people that time is running out? That the series of wars that leads up to the Antichrist seizing power could be only months away, and that we should warn them anyway – even if we all get laughed at or made fun of for saying so?

 

The next verse says, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’” There’s no mistaking who this remark was directed towards; the phony faith healers and the preachers and all their followers who live double lives. I have watched a few of these faith healers on “Christian TV”, and maybe one in 20 appears to be authentic. I will decline to name names, but the remaining 95% are obviously all theater. Instead of preaching the Gospel, they’re on stage, in a pulpit or TV studio putting on a performance for the audience instead of for the Lord. These kinds of people will be punished severely unless they repent, and soon. They too are nearly out of time. For all those reading this who already count themselves as Christian, if any of this reads a lot like the church you’re currently attending, go and find another church.

 

But it wasn’t just Jesus who prophesied against organized religion, which is exactly what He was doing in Matthew chapter 23. The apostle James had something to say about that as well. In James chapter 1 verses 22-27, it reads as follows: “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. But religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 

If you consider yourself a Christian, but you call 911 whenever you see homeless people in your neighborhood, you aren’t really Christian at all. If anyone identifies as Christian but uses a lot of profanity, their religion needs some fine-tuning, to put it mildly. Let God turn your rage, from which much profanity spews forth, into passion and zeal instead. The part about widows and orphans should need no explanation at all. This brings us full circle back to our original topic – those who claim to be religious but really aren’t. James, in the following chapter of his letter to the early Church, wrote this; “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James chapter 2, verses 14-17) By the same token, if one’s faith in Jesus consists exclusively in giving one’s 10% each week, all I can say is you can’t buy your way into heaven.

 

People who attend church faithfully every Sunday while being mean and stingy the other six days of the week are not going to make it to heaven when their lives are over. They will be expecting to, of course. They are, after all, the direct descendants of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time and they don’t even realize it. They are without a clue, and they will remain so as they roast in hell, still insisting on their righteousness. “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” James’ words, “the perfect law that gives freedom” is undoubtedly a reference to Jesus’ ministry when He said, “He who is free in me is free indeed”.

Moreover, if one considers him/herself as being a religious person, but are unwilling to share much of anything except maybe with family members, they’re not Christian, they only live to accumulate possessions and portfolios for themselves. Life is all about their narcissistic selves. They are at the center of their own universes, and just because they did so well in life, they think they are a shoe-in for heaven because they are such a “good person”. To that I would ask, good person by whose standards, yours or God’s?

 

In the next passage, James is equally blunt. Pure religiosity is looking after the needs of widows and orphans, “…and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Defend the defenseless! Help the homeless with money or food if you can! Mentor the prisoner, and teach him or her a trade to minimize their chances of ever coming back to prison again! Have some empathy and some compassion, and become more merciful towards others less fortunate than yourselves! Despise materialism and those who blindly pursue wealth for its own sake! Do not even eat with such people, they are a vexation to the human spirit. If you ever wanted a secular definition of what it means to follow Christ, then these last few sentences are it. Plus, as James put it, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Those whose words are different than their deeds are only putting on a show, of that you can be sure.

 

There are a couple more verses on this topic I wish to point out, and they are contained in the book of Revelation chapter three, verses 15-16, which reads as follows: “I know your deeds, that your are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. Once again, God is laying down the challenge. Do we want to be Christian – or follower of Christ as I prefer – or just pretenders? Is there anybody out there who seriously believes that God doesn’t see and know all? You had best believe He does!! So it basically comes down to this as far as those who attend church regularly – are you just flirting with Jesus, or are you ready to get serious with Him? Are we just showing up on Sunday mornings, saying to God, “Hello again, it’s me Lord, I’m so happy to make it to church one more time”? Are we putting our faith into action the other six days of the week, or are we simply acting religious? And what about those who consider themselves devout believers and followers of Christ, who aren’t flirting with Jesus? In that case, let’s ask ourselves the same question a little differently: Are we going steady with Jesus, or are we ready to fall in love with Him and marry Him (applies equally to both genders since there is neither male nor female in heaven)? Are we a part of the Bride of Christ or aren’t we?

 

It’s time to make a decision everybody! Where do you stand? Let’s not be lukewarm Christians. We already know how God feels about those people, He will “spit you out of (his) mouth”. Or to put it a little more bluntly, lukewarm Christians – and the phony ones – literally make God nauseous, if such a thing is possible for Him in His Spiritual state. The time is very short! The series of devastating wars that will ultimately kill one third of humanity could be only months away, maybe another year or two at the most, so we are running out of time! It’s time for us all to get on fire for Jesus, lest any of us gets condemned to eternal fire instead. Let’s not go there, brothers and sisters. Hell, after all, is a real place. It’s time to fall in love with Jesus and to become a part of His Bride. It’s time for us all to fulfill our true destinies as the sons and daughters of God. Anything less just won’t do as far as I’m concerned, because I’m on board with Jesus forever. How about you? It’s time to make an affirmative decision for Jesus Christ. Ask Him to come and live within your heart, repent – or turn away from – your sins, and start living for Jesus today. Because in the end, He’s all there is.

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What I did for my involuntary vacation

What It’s Like for a Technology Guy to Have to Do Without a Computer for an Agonizing 19 Days, or: The Lessons On Patience That God Just Took the Time to Teach Me

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

needing Jesus By now most of my regular readers have seen the automated postings coming from myself, sent from public libraries, a Fed Ex Office downtown that’s conveniently located just a block from the subway station, and a suburban UPS Store, all with IP addresses you’ve never seen before. Hopefully those postings didn’t end up in someone’s ‘spam’ folder in their inbox. But I’m back now with a newly rebuilt desktop PC, having been forced to scrap my old HP Pavilion notebook. Not to pan HP’s products – my old portable was a 2012 model, a Pavilion 2340DX, so it lasted nearly 7 years; that’s pretty darn good.

It all started when my notebook computer started acting cranky. Actually, it had been that way for weeks. Once I realized it wasn’t a virus, I immediately backup up my hard drive. I later discovered that I got all but about the last 3-4 weeks worth of my postings, which partly defeated the purpose of my data backup. But that is when the real “fun” began. That’s when I rediscovered an old truism called “Murphy’s Law”. In case some of my younger readers haven’t seen this one before, it simply means: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.”

So there I am with a broken computer. So? So I have 2 websites, 2 blogs, plus a social media campaign that I was about to launch when all this happened, all at once. So I ordered 2 replacement parts for my notebook from 2 different suppliers, paying both of them extra money to send the parts 2nd day air. Instead, the parts arrived 2 days late, sent USPS Priority. Their priority, I suppose, it sure as hell wasn’t mine! You’ve already guessed the 2nd part. The wrong parts were sent by both suppliers. So I sent a brief social media post to my subscribers telling them why there wouldn’t be any postings for that week. Back the parts went, at which point I was forced to the conclusion that my formerly trusty notebook PC was not going to be worth the effort to repair. Not while my blogs and websites sat idle. No way.

So back to the public computers I went, this time to order a replacement desktop PC and monitor (I had a used 750Gb hard disk I was going to use). I stuck with the UPS Store for this one, since it was the closest and had the most secure network. In the meantime, a new but fairly basic model ‘smartphone’ that I ordered had arrived, and I began the frustrating task of learning how to use it (it was my first touch screen device, since I had been hanging on to my old flip phone for eons). After 3 more days, the computer arrived on time, but the monitor didn’t arrive until (predictably) 2 days later, and it was broken when I opened the box. Back to Fed Ex Office, this time for a 2nd social media update to be broadcast with Zoho.com, my social media manager app, updating everyone on my current status.

By this time I had received the refunds from the first two suppliers, so I went out and put most of that money into a used 19 inch monitor. Eager to get cranked up again, I went home and hooked everything up, only to find the hard drive I was going to use was defective. It had worked at one time, having tested it myself, but it wouldn’t work with my replacement computer because it’s a Dell, and sometimes Dell’s can be picky about what hard drives and expansion cards you can use with them. I should know – I’m retired from IT with 21 years in the business. So back to the local parts store I went, where I had sourced the monitor, and I found a new 1Tb hard disk drive at a reasonable price. It’s now installed in this rebuilt Dell tower I own, and I’m back in business. Thank God my computer skills aren’t as obsolete as the majority of Atlanta employers seem to think they are. But this seems to be the lot for older tech workers like myself.

All this has been a nerve wracking adventure, to say the least. But I didn’t lose my cool, or go off and snap on somebody, although I do remember having a few choice words for my new phone as I was learning to use it. The waiting for the parts was nerve wracking, that much is for sure. That, and the feelings of helplessness while I waited for my parts to arrive. This whole ordeal has, at several points, nearly drove me crazy. But the Bible, which is like a human owner’s manual, has plenty of things to say about the ways in which God develops patience in his followers. In this context, that means acquiring the skills to be able to put up with seemingly impossible situations.

The apostle James had this to say about enduring impossible people and situations: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James chapter 1, verses 2-4) Again further down in verse 12 of that same chapter, James wrote, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” This means that to follow Christ sometimes means putting up with a lot of people’s junk, especially when they drop it in your lap, as nefarious individuals and circumstances are so prone to do.

So as I close out this week’s message, I’d like to publicly thank God for putting me through what he has over the last 2 ½ weeks. I’m a stronger man because of it, and a little wiser too. I was already a fairly patient man, but now I’m even more so. Some would complain about going through what I just did, being faced with the possible loss in followers if I didn’t get my technical issues fixed. At one time way back when, I was a lot like those who want everything right now, or even yesterday if it were possible. But not anymore, because God has shown me the folly of such obstinate thinking. My point? Had God not taken the time to teach me these things, I would never have learned them. Not only that, but had I not made myself receptive and completely open to God’s teaching over these last 60 years, what I just went through would have sent my entire life down in flames. My whole purpose, which is sharing God’s teachings on the Web, would have been in jeopardy. But I am intact because He has made me so. And next week, I’d like to write about what would happen to us if the internet ceased to exist, owing to the fact that I just had a similar experience. Until then, shalom everyone!

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My Reasons for Writing Are About Far More Than Just Money

Outreach to the Multitudes

by Minister Paul J. Bern

wake_up Before I begin my remarks, I wish to start by thanking everyone who reads this for visiting this site/blog. You are not here by accident. In some way, God has directed you here because you are looking for answers, sometimes whether one realizes it or not. So, why would I start an on-line church with its own blog/Vlog? I have no way to pass a collection basket around like regular churches do, so why spend money out of my own pocket to do this? The simple answer is to reach out to people who are hungry and thirsty for some real truth. Moreover, I have discovered that the Bible – minus all the religious interpretations – remains the best tool to use to accomplish such a goal.

 

The first group of people that I want to reach are those who are disenfranchised by traditional religion. I am one of these myself, having had some strongly negative experiences with churches in the past. Perhaps you are a former Catholic who was molested by a priest, or you know someone who was. There are countless cases of people actually getting ripped off by other church members, and I have witnessed this behavior once or twice in the past. I have also seen churches where there was a lot of internal politics going on, churches with memberships divided up into cliques, and sometimes with much financial impropriety at the top. I can only tell you that, based on my own experiences, if you run into one of these churches or any members thereof, turn and run like crazy for the nearest exit.

 

Due to situations such as these, organized religion in the early 21st century has a huge credibility problem. Is it any wonder that so many people have stopped going to church? I hope to address this problem, plus reach out to those who no longer attend church, by implementing this web site. There is a real God, and I’m writing this to confirm what you already suspect – which is that God is not usually found in brick-and-mortar churches. Churches today, by and large, have slid into apostasy.

 

If I had to think up one word to describe this new V-log, it would be non-denominational. I have a dual love/hate relationship with church denominations. I can’t live with them because I simply don’t believe in everything they believe, or I only believe parts of it but not the remainder of their faith. On the other hand, there are so many Godly people who do not go to church due to their own lack of confidence in organized religion. But those who do so practice their faith as best they can, and try to live by the golden rule, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” To discourage Christians from all faiths from coming to this website just because of where they go to church is not what I want to do at all. The simple solution for me is to emulate Christ as He would have me to do. I will embrace all people of all denominations as the Bible commands me to do, as it is written:

 

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I become like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I become like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but I am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I become weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all men (and women) so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the Gospel, that I might share in its blessings.” (I Cor. 9: 19-23) This exquisite quote is from the New Testament, and it sums up what my goal is with this new blog/V-log. I want to reach out to everyone and say, “That contact you had with that brick-and-mortar church did not represent the true Church. Why not meet online instead? You can come any time, it’s always free, and I don’t demand 10% of what you earn”.

 

The problem with church denominations is they all have a separate core of beliefs that all members are expected to pledge allegiance to. No two churches are alike. One denomination preaches against the other, and all insist that they are the only ones who are right. Various churches openly compete against each other, and they do this because they have lost their focus, which is Christ Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. For me, these three things are the central focus of my faith, and it is a faith that I gladly share with others.

 

This brings me to the second and equally good reason for this blog/V-log, and that is to make God available to web surfers who have no church background at all. I want to tell you that God is real. He is the only sure thing in this temporal world we live in. Everything else is merely a distraction. That’s why He is the one thing we can all rely on in our times of need. Our lives are a free gift from God, and He wants us to be able to use this gift to the best of our abilities so we can have as good a life as possible while glorifying Him. That’s His will for our lives. The Bible tells us that God seeks people’s hearts whether they realize it or not, as it is written: “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me” (Isaiah 65: 1) This verse is addressed to all who read it, regardless of who you are, what you’ve done (or not), or where you’ve been. The publication of this website and this sermon have the same intent. It is my hope and my prayer that someone who reads this message will realize that God may be closer to them (and vice versa) than they thought.

My own experiences have opened my eyes to how broken and dysfunctional the current system truly is, particularly here in the US. Not only the religious system, but politically and economically too. I was forced into early retirement after getting sick and becoming disabled. My original plan was to get well so I could return to the workforce, but that’s not how it worked out. After being out of the computer/IT profession for nearly 2 years, all attempts at obtaining employment – either as a contractor or an employee – proved fruitless. So I looked into reeducating myself and training for a new career, only to be told that I didn’t qualify for financial aid because I had a poor credit rating (imagine that!). While all this was happening, the bottom fell out as far as wages are concerned within the IT industry. Technicians and support personnel like myself who used to make $20-35 dollars an hour are now being paid $11-14 dollars per hour for essentially the same work, and that’s assuming you’re lucky enough to have a job.

I said all that to simply say this: If America had a system in place to take better care of unemployed people, I could be an asset to society instead of a liability. For example, if we had a universal healthcare system in place, I would not have to be concerned about the cost of my prescriptions and my doctor visits because all that would have been taken care of. Instead, I find myself impoverished. For another example, if America had a system in place for retraining all American workers instead of only war veterans, I and the millions of others like me would have a way to train for new vocations and professions without cost. We can easily afford to do this because such a program is already in place.

After World War 2 Congress passed the GI Bill and sent hundreds of thousands of former soldiers back to school, paying big dividends to America in the form of tax revenues generated when these ex-GI’s eventually went back to work. If we could do it for veterans then, why can’t Congress do this for everyone else (at last check, this program is still in place)? Take all the long-term unemployed, beginning with veterans and older workers and branching out from there, and retrain them all. If I could have had a way to do this, I could have gone back to work or gotten retrained for a new profession and become a taxpayer again. Instead, I subsist on my tiny little disability check, living off the taxpayers when I would rather be contributing. So I write, I blog, I have 6 self-published books, with a 7th coming out this fall. For anyone interested, please visit my author page at https://www.authorrevpauljbern.com or at https://www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations

In closing, this V-log and the above websites are available 24×7 to anyone who wants to use them as a mentoring, life coaching, self-help or spiritual resource. The main point is that God is available 24×7 as well. He loves you whether you think so or not, and he cares about what happens to you. Trust God and He will prove himself trustworthy to you. Give your life to Him and He will give himself completely over to you. In the process, He will love you unconditionally and eternally. The key to life and successful living are summed up right here. Until next time then, keep Jesus in your heart and thank Him daily for the sacrifice He made for each of us. Each new day is a gift from God, so treat it as such. May the peace of Christ be with you all. Shalom….

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Free book excerpt #24 from Author & Web Pastor Paul J. Bern

The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

An in-depth analysis of the writings of the apostle Paul in their order of appearance in the Bible. Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI

 

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Contributing To One Another

[Romans chapter 12]

Today in our continuing series of studies of the book of Romans, we move on to chapter 12. In this chapter, the apostle Paul talks about how we can initiate fundamental change for the better from within ourselves. He then explains how this renewal of self can affect our place within the community of believers as well as for the good of everyone else. He then goes on to outline how this personal renewal in Christ for the sake of our relationship with Christ applies to our everyday lives and what we as responsible Christians can do to cause this personal renewal manifest itself. I will begin with verse one.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 1-2)

We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God in the same way that Christ offered Himself up on the cross of Calvary. Furthermore, we are to be living in the world while remaining separate from it. We can live here as usual but not be caught up in the materialistic and vain trappings of the world as it currently exists. We can accomplish this by what Paul calls “mind renewal”. This means being a modern Christian requires a new and different way of thinking that sets us apart from the rest of humanity. It is only when we do this that we can find out for ourselves what God’s will is for our lives. And His will is always perfect for us whether we realize it or not. And if we don’t yet do so, we can still accomplish this by the renewal of our minds in Christ Jesus.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it to the proportion of his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 3-8)

The first point Paul makes is that there is no room for big egos in God’s family. Everyone has a place in God’s family “in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you”. Everyone has a function within God’s family, and Paul names these functions without any particular order of importance. Notice that he mentions money only briefly (“if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously”). This is in stark contrast to the erroneous teachings of the modern church, which emphasizes tithing 10% of one’s income. This is a teaching that goes all the way back to the Old Testament, well before the time of Christ. As I said in one of my recent Sunday commentaries, we should definitely contribute to churches and other charities as we see fit. However, the harsh economic realities of the modern world in which we live make giving 10% a prohibitively expensive proposition, especially for the poor and middle class. Let the rich give 15% to their churches in our place. Besides, when Jesus died on the cross, the old law was sacrificed with Him and He became the new law. Paul then goes on from there.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those that mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12: 9-16)

The timely advice that is in these few verses is just as relevant now as it was nearly 2,000 years ago when it was first written. Love must be genuine, and never abusive. Stand up to evil and oppose it at every turn. Be a truly selfless person who thinks of themselves last, who puts others first, rarely complaining. Now comes the hardest part, because it’s a quote from Christ himself. “Bless those who curse you…”, be kind to those who oppose you or who have personal vendettas. You will be surprised (based on my own experience) at how quickly this tactic can disarm those who oppose you. Be willing to associate with people of low position, such as the homeless. I was once homeless myself for about four months, and I didn’t think such a thing could happen to me back then until it did. I’m retired from IT after over 20 years in the computer business. But when you’re self-employed and the demand for your product dries up, your income dries up too. Never be conceited, and be wary of all the class warfare that’s going on in America. And how do we accomplish this and other similar things, such as our relationship with Christ? By being “transformed by the renewing of our minds”. Paul then continues on with these closing verses.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written. ‘it is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord’. (Deuteronomy 32:35) On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12: 17-21)

As far as it is possible, live at peace with everyone. If any of your enemies refuses to act peaceably toward you, avoid them and don’t associate with them. Take it to the Lord in prayer and let God deal with them, and you can be sure that He will. God will deal with your enemies in His good and perfect will according to His perfect timing. That is the way of the Lord, and we are to emulate Him every chance we get. And the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding will be with you all. Let’s start putting these teachings into practice on a daily basis. You will be surprised at how much your quality of life will improve, as well as how many doors of opportunity this will open for you. Living God’s way through Jesus Christ really is the best way to live our lives. Try it and see for yourself, you will be pleased with the outcome. Enjoy your day!

Get the print edition on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol+1%3A+the+apostle+paul&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Athe+apostles+in+plain+english+vol+1%3A+the+apostle+paul

Get the digital edition on Kindle ($9.99) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

Get it in audio format on Amazon Audible at https://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Plain-English-Vol-Appearance/dp/B0746TTGBN/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503076680&sr=1-1&keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol.+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI 

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More False Predictions Bite the Dust

Israel’s 70th Anniversary Passes Without the

Predicted Happenings of Biblical Proportions

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

For website or small-screen viewing, click here 🙂

img_6039 Here we go, people, another predicted date of great import and spiritual significance, not to mention a big event for Judaism as well as Christianity, has come and gone, almost without incident. I write ‘almost’ out of a sense of shame and regret towards my Jewish brothers and sisters, whose country Israel sent armed forces to shoot dozens of Palestinian protesters just for protesting. Israel seems to have forgotten that theirs is the only democracy in the Middle Eastern region, and that one of the basic tenets of democracy is the right to freedom of expression. The Israeli Defense Force is actively preventing the Palestinian people from exercising this fundamental human right while forcefully exercising it themselves. The whole world sees this glaring double standard, and it is no coincidence that the American people are experiencing this same set of circumstances here at home. I have predicted in the past that this entire situation is unsustainable, and I continue to predict this will result in civil unrest globally (not just here in the US). But I digress….

This 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel as a nation was alleged to be accompanied by the arrival of Christ for the “rapture” of the Church, and this is based on Scripture, which I will get to in just a minute. But for right now, the most harmful consequences of such false predictions is that it discourages people from making the necessary preparations for the real event when it actually occurs. At least some will join the chorus of cynics whom the Bible predicts will mockingly say, “Where is the promise of Christ’s coming?” (2 Peter 3: 3-4). Let’s not forget that it was Jesus himself who said to his apostles that no one knows when he is coming back to the earth, not even himself, but only his heavenly Father.

Let’s pause and look up what He said about that. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us’, they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” [Matthew chapter 24, verses 3-8]

 

 

I’m sure you noticed the very first sentence of Christ’s response, “Watch out that no one deceives you”. At this point it is easy to see that Jesus was talking about the times in which we are currently living. There are and will be a lot of “false Christs” who will deceive an awful lot of people. Jesus wasn’t only talking about people claiming to be Jesus Christ in the flesh, he was talking about entire churches or even denominations. ‘Ours is the true way’, one church might say, and yet another different from the first may say the same thing. Jesus was talking about divisions within the body of believers, as well as phony con artists operating from without. Or on television. The increased number of earthquakes that have been recorded over the last decade or more are also in the news almost on a daily basis. When it comes to famines, humankind has them in spades, starting with a 2014 United Nations report saying that 50,000 children per day, ages 5 and under, die from starvation globally. Pause and reflect on that for a minute. Moreover, 1 in every 5 American school children will experience homelessness at least once before they turn eighteen. But these things, our Lord said, are “the beginning of birth pains”.

 

At this point, I really should add some additional background to add more clarity to this week’s message. I’m going to mention 2 things here – the Great Tribulation and the coming of the Antichrist. Whatever anyone has read or heard elsewhere, get ready to be warned about the truth about the world’s future as the Bible tells it. Most everybody knows about the 7-year Great Tribulation that is prophesied elsewhere in the Bible, mainly in the books of Daniel and Revelation, but which were written many hundreds of years apart. This 7-year period will be the final time period leading up to the return of Jesus Christ, who will proceed to rule the world from its new capital in Jerusalem for 1,000 years.

The main argument revolves around the timing of this 7-year period. Some say it hasn’t started yet, others insist we ‘re already in it. There are many details I could delve into regarding this matter, but it all boils down to what Jesus told his apostles: “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father”. [Matthew 24: 32-36]

 

Many Biblical scholars and pastors, unfortunately, take the phrase, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened”, and try to add something that isn’t there. You probably know that the nation of Israel was founded on May 14, 1948. You likely also know that a ‘generation’ in the Bible was considered to be 40 years when those words were originally written. For all you long-time Christians like myself, it was widely prophesied on the then-relatively-new Christian TV stations that Jesus would return one generation after Israel’s founding, or May 14, 1988. Much to the discredit of certain elements within main stream Christianity, we all know what happened back then, and one of the purposes of this week’s posting is to try and prevent this from happening a second time during these last days. I am sick and tired of bogus ministers who give a bad reputation to the name of Christ! But if 40 years isn’t what Jesus meant, many Christians were saying, and the average life expectancy here in the ‘end times’ is a little over 70 for men, then 1948 plus 70 years equals 2018. Aha!! So that’s when our Lord will return! Got it, now let’s get ready!

 

Nope, hold on a minute. Wait, wait – stop. Just like May of 1988, May 14, 2018 just came and went unceremoniously (excluding all the Palestinian unrest I mentioned at the top of this posting). Let’s all think back to what the Bible says: “No one knows the day or the hour”. Isn’t that what the Lord said? Not even himself, He stated. OK, now let’s look at this from another angle. If May 14th, 2018 was the day of Christ’s return, and since the Great Tribulation is of 7 years duration, then the ‘tribulation’ should have started back in the Spring of 2011, and the Antichrist should have come to power about the same time. Clearly, since none of these has occurred, all those other “predictions” won’t come true either.

 

So, now let me move on to the second topic, and that is the coming of the Antichrist, who will come upon the world scene according to the prophet Daniel (see Daniel chapter 12 in the Old Testament), as well as the book of Revelation chapter 13. As before, without having you all plunge headfirst into the murky pool of end times prophecy, let me make a generalization or two. In the first place, World War Three and the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 in the Old Testament are one and the same. Moreover, the Antichrist will not come to power until just after this war’s conclusion. While I would be quick to agree that the stage for WW3 is currently being set, we aren’t there just yet – but, continue to watch events unfold in the Middle East very closely, because that’s where it’s going to start.

t will not be until the conclusion of that war that the Antichrist will come to power to enforce his own brand of peace. Three and a half years later he will break his own peace treaty, and that is when the countdown to the final 3.5 years will commence before Christ’s return. The final event before our Savior’s return in this context is the Battle of Armageddon, which is not the same as the God-Magog war of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39. So, to dispel another myth or false teaching (take your pick), World War Three and Armageddon are two different battles set approximately seven years apart.

 

So you can pretty much disregard all the predictions on “Christian TV”, as well as all the cult churches, some of which are operating right here in the US, regarding the return of our Lord and Savior. Once again, Jesus has proven them all wrong while proving himself absolutely right. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.” Jesus told his apostles he had no idea when his return would occur. That return and its timing are on a need-to-know basis, and frankly we don’t need to know. Still, the stage is being set and the players are taking their places for the Ezekiel 38-39 war as I write this. Therefore we must all remain vigilant. Remember what else Jesus mentioned about this in another part of the gospels: “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” That statement still holds true because it comes from the Son of God.

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I will be back next week. Here’s a guest post for you. Enjoy!

Today’s guest column is from David Allan of CNN. Weekly commentary will return next week.
Which side of ourselves will prevail?

By © David G. Allan, CNN; November 16, 2016

Story highlights

  • Every day, we have the opportunity to embrace a darker path or to act in a helpful and hopeful way
  • Anger is often triggered by other emotions such as fear, rejection or desperation

This essay is part of a column called The Wisdom Project by David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness. The series is on applying to one’s life the wisdom and philosophy found everywhere, from ancient texts to pop culture. Don’t miss another Wisdom Project column; subscribe here.

 

(CNN) “A fight is going on inside me,” said an old man to his grandson. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves, one good and one bad”. So goes a version of a traditional Cherokee legend (or a modern Billy Graham story).

The first wolf embodies emotions and vices such as hate, greed, arrogance, dishonesty, anger, false pride, superiority and ego. The other wolf represents values and virtues such as peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth and compassion.

The grandson considers the metaphoric battle and asks, “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”

 

This struggle is ours. Every day, we have the opportunity to embrace a darker path or to act in a more helpful and hopeful way.

The same struggle is sometimes evident in entire nations, which can be deeply divided along a number of overlapping fault lines: political, socioeconomic, racial, gender.

This story holds a mirror up to ourselves, individually and collectively. And we should take a long look in it. If we’re honest about the struggle and understand it more, we can begin feeding one wolf over the other.

 

Starve one wolf

The feeling of anger or the impulse of greed is often triggered by other emotions such as fear, rejection or desperation. Often, we’re not even aware that secondary emotions like anger have a deeper root cause. “Fear is the path to the dark side,” Yoda explains in one of the “Star Wars” films. “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

The first step in managing your emotions is simply being more aware of them. Ask yourself what triggers them. Look at your life experience for clues to how you react.

And of course, in some circumstances, anger and even hate are justified, perhaps useful. We should be angry at disparity. We should hate injustice.

 

But whether an emotion is justified or not, negative emotions often lead to negative actions. If you take a primary feeling like fear or uncertainty and avoid turning that into hate, you are less likely to act in a hateful way. Embrace the feelings, but guide them toward the good.

“I can’t choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it,” explained the late Andy Rooney, the Yoda of television news magazines.

You are also in control of your social and media influences. If you are barraged with messages of hate and bitterness, they will more easily impinge on your self-control. It’s important to stay informed, but be wary of listening to those who are in the business of feeding angry wolves.

 

Feed the other wolf

 

Staying in a positive and empathetic head-space is challenging, especially in times of stress, but again, being mindful of your emotions is vital.

And just as hatred and closed-mindedness can eventually lead to acts of violence, love often leads to acts of peace and kindness.

Committing ourselves to sustaining such action is the way to personal and institutional progress. Seek out and employ strategies to staying committed to something over time, whether it’s the repetition-and-reward of a new habit or the tracking of a New Year’s resolution.

 

What feeding the good wolf looks like, practically, can include these actions:

Send a positive message. Whether it’s on your Facebook feed or in conversations, communicate the good, the hope, the love.

Get involved. Give money or time, as you can, to a cause or effort that will use it to amplify positive change. It doesn’t need to be political, either; it could be supporting public media or improving the environment or literacy, or an organization supporting folks who need financial help or are sick.

Share love. Make a list of 12 people in your life and check them off as you express in a conversation, email or letter how important they are to you.

Listen. We all need to be heard. Take a little more time and really give your attention to others. Listening is love, and it naturally creates bonds of empathy and support.

Help someone you know. Identify one person among your friends and family who is particularly struggling, and understand more about what they need and how you can help.

Be kind to strangers. Kindness is contagious, a fact backed by real science. Be a patient zero to everyone you come across.

Add to this list, and share. Come up with more things you can do to increase the total amount of goodness and positivism in the world, do some of those things and share those ideas with others.

 

We can fix everything that’s wrong with us by what’s right with us. And to crib another presidential campaign line, we are the change we’ve been waiting for.

 

Don’t miss another Wisdom Project column by subscribing here.

This call to action is echoed by a lyric in the song “Man in the Mirror,” by Michael Jackson, who arguably struggled with his own inner wolves. “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”

 

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People chase after lots of different ‘gods’, but there’s only One that’s real

The Only God That’s Real

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

For better small screen viewing, click here 🙂

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Like nearly everyone else, with the exception of the ‘war hawks’ in the Pentagon who obey without questioning, I too am appalled by the fighting in the Middle East and northeastern Africa over natural resources, politics and religion. The missile strike ordered by president Trump this past Friday night, although probably justified, does nothing at all to improve the situation there. Moreover, I find all the bickering between the peaceful 90%, which is us, and the war hawks (the top 10%) to be little more than a sideshow considering what’s at stake. I am equally put off by all the sniping and infighting here in North America between religious denominations over man-made dogma and traditions steeped in pomp and circumstance while they remind everyone constantly to “support our troops”. They are all in favor of combating and killing Muslims while calling themselves “pro-life”.

 

I will use the Scriptures to prove that the one true God is above and beyond all wars, churches and organized religions, in keeping with the theme of this website. The first thing that I want to remind you of is that there are many false gods in the modern world. The most egregious example that comes to mind is the worship of money and material goods and all the evils that come with them. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. That means money in and of itself is not always evil, but greed and the insatiable lust for money most definitely are. Jesus said in the four Gospels, “No one can serve two masters. He/she will either love one and reject the other, or cling to the latter while despising the former. You cannot serve both God and materialism.” (Luke 16: 13) I think this would apply to, among other things, the sales of military armaments.

 

 

The “love of money” appears in many forms. Let’s ask ourselves these questions – do we sometimes find ourselves in automotive dealerships every time a new model comes out? Do we shop for new clothes, electronics, mobile or “smart” phones, the latest computers, and new decor for our homes whether we need them or not, just because they’re “on sale”? Do we sometimes find ourselves shopping for a new house whether we need one or not? Are any of us in debt up to our eyeballs (not counting student loans) because we owe too much on our credit cards and everything else? If anyone answered “yes” to any of these questions, and particularly if you prioritize these things at the expense of your Spiritual lives, then you are worshiping a false god(s). It is Jesus Christ and he alone that must be at the top of our priorities. Anything else takes a back seat to Jesus in the order of our lives. Most of the things I just mentioned (excluding greed) are not evil in and of themselves. But false and futile worship of anything other than God, while bypassing or not including Jesus Christ as our Savior, amounts to idol worship. A similar line of questioning was presented to the apostle Paul nearly 2,000 years ago, and it is well documented in the book of Acts in the New Testament. I will begin with a quote from chapter 17, beginning at verse 16.

 

 

While Paul was in Athens…. he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of….. philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign Gods.’ They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus (which was basically a temple for idol worship and a town meeting place), where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean’…. Then Paul stood up at the meeting of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth…. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps to reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us…. as some of your own poets have said, “we are his offspring”. Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent….when they heard about [Jesus] resurrection from the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “we want to hear from you again on this subject”. (Acts 17, verses 16-32)

 

 

This passage is just one of numerous examples of the apostle Paul’s teaching about the one true God. I especially appreciate that Paul made two distinct points about God. The first is that God is above and beyond all nationalities, races and religions because he preached the same message equally to Jews, Greeks and other Gentiles. The one true God is also above and beyond all the material possessions money can buy. These things were considered to be radical teachings at the time because all these groups believed that their version of God was the correct one to the exclusion of everything and everybody else. This very mistake continues to be made today by certain church denominations who I will decline to name. Nobody has the exclusive path to God. No one has the right to claim that they are any closer to God than anyone else. It’s just not true and it never was. Moreover, nobody has the right to condemn another person’s religion, so long as their beliefs don’t hurt or restrict the freedom of anyone else. And we can’t buy our way into heaven either.

 

 

The second point that catches the human eye and captures my imagination is what Paul said about where God lives. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else.” What an awesome statement! Think about how many religions there are in the world. There are over 4000 Protestant denominations alone, and that’s just in the USA. All are called churches or houses of worship regardless of which religion they represent. And yet God doesn’t live in any of them. Instead, for the true believer God lives in the minds and hearts of all individual believers. Never mind all the spiritual sophistry that’s being “taught” in some modern churches, because it’s largely based on money.

 

 

God doesn’t care who you are, where you live, what you have done (or not), what country you are from or what church you are connected with (or not). He doesn’t care where you have been, and He doesn’t care about what is in your past. Unlike many men and women who attend church regularly, God doesn’t care what you look like, or how much money you give to your church or to charities, or what your social or economic status is. God couldn’t care less what church you go to, or even if you go at all. The one true God doesn’t even live in church, although a lot of phony religious leaders and related clergy will no doubt insist that He does. Instead, God wants to live and breathe in our hearts and minds. He wants you to become a church in and of yourself, a church that walks and talks. Not only does God want to live inside you, He wants us all to pay that forward by unconditionally sharing our faith with others. That means that He wants us all to have a sound conscience and to learn how to use it most effectively. Also, to quote the apostle Paul, God wants us to “continue to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” (Philippians 2: 12).

 

 

In closing, let me add that there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to church no matter what religion you identify with. If you currently attend, I’m certain that God wants you to continue to go so long as you keep hearing messages from the pulpit that are encouraging, uplifting and positive, and most importantly based on Scripture. I don’t want this message to be a reason for those who are attending church to stop going. God forbid! On the other hand, please keep in mind that the church is just a building and nothing more. I acknowledge that churches are built as meeting places for like-minded believers and that they should remain so. But now that you have read today’s message I hope I have given everyone a better perspective, whether in church or out. You can look at organized religion with skepticism as I do, but do not let that compromise your most deeply held beliefs. The one true God is greater that all the religions in the world combined. He is truly above and beyond it all.

 

 

Let me bring up one more thing before I go, and I really wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point this out. If we are going to have God living inside of each of us then we should be living and acting as if He did. Watch what you say and how you say it. Clean up your life and the language that you use. Be mindful of anything that you are doing to excess because this is the root of all addictive behavior. Live your life as if God is watching what you do and listening to everything you say because He really is. Until next time, then, be a believer that walks and talks the good example of Christ for others to follow, especially those who look up to you. And the almost incomprehensible peace that is the very embodiment of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the world – will remain with you all permanently. Amen.

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Free book excerpt #22 from Web pastor, author and blogger Paul J. Bern

The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Five years in the making, this first of a series is a lot more than just a compilation of Bible studies. This collection of Paul’s writings presents them from a broader perspective that are much more applicable to modern life than one might expect. Each study is limited to a few pages for the sake of brevity. This study of Paul’s writings is done from a whole new 21st century perspective that is sure to educate while making the process enjoyable. Over 550 pages of enlightenment! A must-read for believers, whether they attend church or not! An inspirational guide for secular folks too! Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI

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Building On The Foundation Of Christ

[1st Corinth. chapter 3]

This week’s Bible study of the writings of the apostle Paul will be on the third chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In this passage of Scripture, Paul is teaching about building on the foundation of Christ as a way to avoid divisions within the church, and he is doing so in the context of the state of the early Church at that time. Paul is addressing specific issues that had been brought up previously by this congregation, presumably regarding certain disagreements and arguments that had sprung up among them. In the early part of this chapter Paul finds himself having to rebuke this congregation for their lack of unity due to disputes among them concerning their views on what it meant to be Christian. We will begin at the first verse as usual.

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul’, and another, ‘I follow Apollos’, are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3: verses 1-9)

As you can see, Paul is telling the early Corinthian church to grow up, stop fighting among themselves and to quit acting like children in the faith. Paul is admonishing them to become more mature in their faith as God first intended. But he is also saying that it doesn’t matter how they first heard the Gospel being preached or from who they heard it. What is important is that the Gospel originates from God, not from mere men. Jesus is the message, and we are the messengers. Paul then refers to a well-known Old Testament verse, “One man plants, another man waters, but it is God who gives the increase”, stating, “…for we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building”, with another translation of ‘building’ in this context being ‘storehouse’ or ‘barn’. Paul is saying that all blessings come from God, and He can send even enough to fill up any storehouse. Paul then continues in verse 10.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (I Corinthians 3: 10-17)

When Paul says “I laid a foundation as an expert builder”, he is speaking in the context of himself being the founder of the church at Corinth. He then states definitively that anyone building on his foundation had better not use any combustible materials, referring to the Old Testament, which calls God a “consuming fire”. This was written as a warning to the church against the pursuit of material gain and the hoarding of money and goods. This same warning is just as valid to the church today as it was when those words were first written nearly 2,000 years ago. Paul then adds that putting too much faith in our earthly works and treasures won’t necessarily prevent us from getting to heaven when we die, but it will be the same as escaping from a fire with nothing but the clothes on our backs. It was also a warning that Christ is the only true foundation upon which the Church is built, and that anything less is impure at best, and heresy at worst. Finally, Paul compares the early church to a new temple of the Lord in which He can dwell, and he reminds us that, “…God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” Paul then concludes the chapter beginning at verse 18 by completing his warning to keep the church on the foundation of Christ.

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’, and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile’. So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” (I Corinthians 3: verses 18-23)

To put this into 21st century English, Paul is warning the church, “Don’t kid yourselves. People who think they are smart aren’t as smart as they would like to think. In the end, everything belongs to God. Anything that is not consumed in His consuming fire, will stand the test of time and be permanent. Everything else is just temporary anyway.” And I believe Paul is telling us these things to make sure we keep our values in perspective, so we can be more spiritual and less superficial. This is a good thing for all of us to put into practice, so let’s all start to do this today. That way we’ll be able to advance the state of all our lives as we transition into tomorrow.

Get the digital edition on Kindle ($9.99) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

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My Reasons for Declining Church Attendance, and Why They Differ from Main Stream Christianity

Why Are the World’s

Young Adults Leaving Churches?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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life's hardest battlesSomeone asked my opinion earlier this week about why so many millennial’s are leaving church, and what can be done about it. After doing some reflection, prayer and meditating, and based on some personal observations, there are quite a few reasons why this is so. To begin with, the fact of the matter is that young Christians often feel forced to choose between their logic and their faith, between evolution and Creation, and between compassion and piety, as if they are mutually exclusive of each other. Meaning, churches who are losing members do so due to politics and religion undergoing a merger while missing any semblance of the awesome power of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This attitude dates all the way back to the time of Christ, when the temple high priests and the Hebrew religious establishment of that time were expecting the Jewish Messiah to arrive as a conqueror who would set up his Kingdom in Jerusalem – in opposition to the Roman Empire, echoing the “patriot movement” of today – and rule the entire world. That day is coming, but not on those terms, until all the Scriptures have been fulfilled. Jesus said about such people, “Woe to you, Pharisees, because you give a tenth of your mint, rue and all kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11: 42) God is running out of patience with those who “tithe” weekly while doing nothing for the less fortunate!

 

A second and equally noteworthy reason that churches are losing America’s young professionals is that young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be either too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned to the point of being and thinking backwards, too unconcerned with social justice and hostile to liberal, progressive, environmentalist and LGBTQ people, among others. Most of all, I have met modern Christians who refuse to congregate and worship with anyone other than their own race. Rev. Dr. King said it best back in the 1960’s when he stated, “The most segregated place in America is at church on Sunday morning”. To a large extent, this has not changed much over the last 50 years or so. Does organized religion think that young adults don’t see this for the hypocrisy that it is? Who, after all these decades, still does not understand that there will be no bigots in heaven??

 

A third reason that some well-established churches are driving millennial’s and young adults away is the time-honored yet non-scriptural tradition of abstinence from alcoholic beverages. There are at least a few well-known Christian denominations – which I will decline to name – who “teach” that abstinence from alcohol is essential to salvation in Christ. But they have forgotten all about the twin facts concerning this subject; the first is that Jesus’ first miracle was changing water into wine, and the second is that there were at least two glasses of wine – and probably more – that were served at the Last Supper on the night before he was crucified. Even the apostle Paul advised Timothy, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1st Timothy 5: 23) Earlier in this same book, Paul advised, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.” (Timothy 4: 4) Since this includes the grapes that make the wine, Paul’s teaching also extends to other natural substances, like medical marijuana and ‘polysyllabic’ mushrooms, both of which are proven to treat or cure bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, chronic alcoholism, seizures and even certain forms of cancer. That’s why America’s young adults look at the entire ‘abstinence-is-godliness’ issue and see it for the spiritual BS that it truly is.

 

Then there is another one of my pet peeves, that Old Testament-based “teaching” about giving a tenth of your income each and every week, otherwise known as tithing. It is based on two verses of Scripture, the first from the book of Deuteronomy chapter 14, verse 22, which says, “Be sure and set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year”. According to Scripture, tithing only occurred on certain feast days; Passover, First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23, verses 4-44). But modern churches take this much further than that. Their pastors, deacons and other elders will use a well-known verse from the book of Malachi, the very last book of the Old Testament. It reads as follows: “’Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me’. But you ask, ‘But how do we rob you?’. ‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me’” (Malachi chapter three, verses 8-9).

Yet the Bible tells us that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Law, as it is written, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5: 17). So when certain pastors quote from the Book of Malachi, they are taking it out of context. Still, modern-day preachers and evangelists use these verses to convince their congregations to keep giving more money and other donations as if the above verses were directed at the faithful. In reality, these passages were severe admonishments from God, not towards members of the Church, but rather directed at the leadership. Evidently there was some embezzlement going on because the priests kept too much of the offerings for themselves. This had nothing to do with the offerings of the faithful, and it still doesn’t!

 

The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules. The world’s young adults long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt. We are taught to abstain from sex before marriage and not to commit adultery, yet all the while those who teach this commit the same sins in secret, as if God doesn’t know what they are doing. These are the same people who condemn same-sex marriage while committing their own immoral sexual behavior, such as being addicted to pornography. According to statistics provided by the National Council on Churches, combined with statistics from the CDC right here in Atlanta, roughly one half of Christian men, and about 40% of Christian women, are addicted to porn. That’s why I’m saying those who teach ‘abstinence’ are a bunch of hypocrites!

 

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders is that the key to drawing people in their twenties and thirties back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving via texting. But here’s the thing: Christians of all ages have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re turned off by anything that smacks of consumerism. What millennial’s really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance, and much more of it. We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

 

People today want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation. We want to be challenged to live simply, care for the poor and oppressed, pursue reconciliation, and become peacemakers. What people today don’t want are anti-abortion, “pro-life activists” who happen to be war hawks who are anti-national-health-care. In other words, they want authenticity, and millennial’s aren’t finding it in the churches. Millennial’s aren’t leaving churches because they don’t find the ‘cool factor’ there; they’re leaving the church because they don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and so every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus Christ the Son of God and everything he brings, which is life everlasting through his Holy Spirit! But I would encourage church leaders eager to win back young adults to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community. The immorality of fighting wars, of extreme inequality, of the race-based drug wars while opiates are legal, and caring for the fatherless, widows and orphans would be good places to start. The point is, we must all start somewhere, or we will all end up nowhere. Better get going….

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The Gospel From the Inside Out

The ‘Flip Side’ of the Teachings of Christ Jesus

by pastor Paul J. Bern

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Jesus1For this week’s commentary I will, once again but from a different angle, demonstrate that the teachings and presence of the Lord in Spirit and in Truth are more relevant today than ever before. I’m not talking religion and I’m not talking about doctrine, I’m just writing today about Jesus Christ and what he taught, because people everywhere seem to be hungry and thirsty for real truth and authenticity. So today I am once again putting Jesus up on a pedestal where he belongs. My topic is what we now call the Beatitudes of Christ, or just ‘the Beatitudes’ for short. I’m going to give you 2 different sets of quotes, the first from the apostle Matthew’s gospel and the second from Luke’s. These are very powerful instructions from our Lord and Savior, so let’s examine what happens when we obey them, followed by what can happen if we don’t. So let me begin with Matthew chapter 5 and verse 2.

….He began to teach them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who came before you.’” (Matthew 5, verses 3-12)

“Poor in spirit” could mean a couple of things. Besides those who are dispirited and disenfranchised, it could also mean people who are mentally depressed, and so by extension Jesus could have been taking about the mentally ill or mentally challenged individuals. Most likely it’s all of the above. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Most often this verse is associated with those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, particularly a spouse or a child. But this can also mean those who have suffered catastrophic losses, like the survivors of hurricanes and wildfires who have nothing but the clothes they’re wearing. They too will be comforted, because they will regain much of what they have lost. Moreover, those who have lost loved ones will see them again, and maybe sooner than we all think.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Why? Because at some point in the fairly near future, all the warlike people will kill each other off because of their addiction to fighting and conflict. They thrive on it, so let it consume them. The meek, mild, compassionate, loving and gentle people will be the only ones left. Let those whose only motivations are anger and rage roast in hell! “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Notice that it reads, “for they will be filled”. That means those who get filled with righteousness will derive theirs from God, through his only Son Jesus Christ. Those whose righteousness is self-generated – this is, generated by the human ego instead relying on the Holy Spirit – is egocentric by nature and is derived from human emotions. So we can conclude that righteousness that is received from above is from God, but self-righteousness is of Satan and is Luciferian in nature. So the two are totally incompatible.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Be forgiving and merciful towards others, and you will get the same in return. Likewise, when we show mercy and kindness towards God’s creations – other people – we can expect the same from God. Conversely, mean people – particularly those with violent tempers and those who seem to be always angry – and those who commit violent crimes such as murder (like school shootings!!) and forcible rape, should expect no mercy from God whatsoever unless they repent of their ways once and for good! “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Since we all have a sinful nature that we must work hard to control (see Romans 3, verses 9-18), people who are “pure in heart” are those who don’t partake in the corrupt nature of the world in which we live. That is, it is not possible for any human being to keep his/her heart pure while they allow themselves to be surrounded by the gross impurities of this world. Greed, malice, hate and prejudice, wall-to-wall sex all the time, pornography, every kind of addiction you can imagine, subliminal messaging and imagery designed to program the human mind are just a sampling of what’s out there. All you “Christians” who look at porn, party at clubs all night, use dangerous drugs like heroin and meth and so-called “spice” (“artificial marijuana” that is neither), you had better take a step or two away from what you’re doing, and from the person you have become, and take a good long look at yourselves. You don’t have much time left to get yourselves right with God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” While this needs no explanation, it also says, ‘Cursed are the mercenaries who kill for profit, the politicians who send our sons and daughters off to fight and die in wars that benefit only a few people and their families. Cursed are those who pollute the earth that God created and divert its resources exclusively for themselves, causing hardship and starvation for hundreds of millions. Cursed are they who deny electricity and clean drinking water to 25% of the planet so they can keep it all for themselves. Cursed are they, for they will be called the sons of the devil! “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” All the Christians who have died or who will die for their faith, fall into this category. So do all whistle-blowers within government and industry, all of whom see, to die mysterious deaths under equally mysterious circumstances. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., presidents Kennedy and Lincoln, as well as Malcolm X all fall into this category.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” If you have ever been cussed out, threatened, or physically attacked by Christian haters, you know exactly what I mean. What’s the flip side of this one? Simple – if one has never had to defend one’s faith, the depth of one’s belief is directly proportional to the vigor with which one is compelled to defend one’s faith. Conversely, if we never talk to anyone about our faith and what Christ has done in your life, our faith lacks depth, which limits how we interact with the Risen Spirit of Christ the Lord. Never be afraid to talk to others about your faith, because you never know when you can help someone. You could even help lead a soul to their Savior, of whom they were previously unaware. Jesus has already saved your soul, hasn’t he (but if not PLEASE ask him now!!)? So go and pay it forward, that’s your job! And now let me briefly quote from Luke’s gospel.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6, verses 24-26) So there you go, that sums things up rather nicely, exactly what God’s Word is saying to us, spoken through his Son Jesus (or ‘Yeshua’ in Hebrew, the native language of Christ). There are two sides to every teaching of Jesus, and sometimes more than that. This is just one of dozens of examples throughout the Bible where God’s Word can mean more than one thing and still be consistent. In the meantime, and in closing, everyone please continue to pray for peace in our nation’s schools, as well as in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula. Shalom….

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